Stunning Grave Found of Dark Age Church Leader: ScienceAlert

Archaeologists have uncovered a treasure that reveals a brief period in medieval English history when pagan and Christian traditions merged and women held positions of power in the church.

The artifacts were discovered in a 1,400-year-old grave found just outside Northampton, England, and are considered one of the most important finds from that period.

It was in April 11, the penultimate day of an eight-week dig in the small village of Harpole, when archaeologist Levente-Bence Balázs saw something crawling out of the earth. These were the crowns of two teeth, which suggested a burial place.

“Then two golden objects appeared from the earth and shone towards me,” Balazs said Amelia Hill at The Guardian.

“These artifacts haven’t seen the light of day for 1,300 years, and to be the first person to see them is indescribable.”

It’s not every day that archaeologists spot shimmering gold in soil and mud. Leader of a team of five excavators from the Museum of London Archeology (MOLA), Balazs explained to CNN it was the first time in 17 years of excavations that he had discovered an artifact made from this precious metal.

The necklace found by archaeologists (left) and a reconstruction (right). (MOLA/Hugh Gatt)

His team unearthed an opulent 30-piece necklace of Roman coins, garnets, glass and semi-precious stones – thought to be the “richest” necklace of its kind ever found in Britain.

The skeleton had decayed except for a few fragments of tooth enamel, but given that the necklaces are almost exclusively found with female bodies, it is fair to assume that the remains once belonged to a wealthy or high-ranking woman. rank.

X-rays taken at the grave. (MOLA)

The woman was also buried with a large silver cross, two decorated pots and a shallow copper dish.

The cross had deteriorated, but its shape was still visible in x-ray images taken from the ground surrounding the tomb. The cross was adorned with unusual silver human faces, which had survived the passage of time.

Silver faces from the grave. (MOLA)

The mixture of objects in the tomb suggests that the woman lived at a time, around 630 CE and 670 CE, when pagan and Christian beliefs were still intermingled.

“Burying people with lots and lots of bling is a pagan notion, but it’s obviously heavily invested in Christian iconography, so it’s this time of pretty rapid change,” said archeology consultant Simon Mortimer. told the Associated Press reporter Jill Lawless.

The wealth and symbolism of the objects suggest that the woman was a wealthy Christian leader, such as the head of an abbey or a princess.

Experts agree that she must have been one of the first women in Britain to hold a position of power in the church.

The treasure found on the tomb. (MOLA)

“This is the largest early medieval female burial ever discovered in Britain,” Balazs Told The Guardian. “It’s an archaeologist’s dream to find something like this.”

About a dozen other tombs of high-ranking women have been found in England, some with similar necklaces. However, few of these sites date from before the 7th century CE, as burials of high-ranking men were more common.

As Christianity took off, valuables like necklaces were less likely to be placed on graves as it was frowned upon by the early Christian church, according Lyn Blackmore, archaeologist at the Museum of London Archaeology.

The centerpiece of the necklace. (MOLA/Andy Chopping)

“The Harpole hoard, it’s not the richest in terms of the number of artifacts, but it’s the richest in terms of the investment of wealth…and it has the greatest amount of gold and of religious symbolism,” she added. said during a press conference.

The archaeologists had been commissioned to excavate the site by a company, Vistry Group, before a subdivision.

As archaeologists announced their findings this week, locals braced for move into the new property. The exact location of the burial place has not disclosed but it was not rebuilt.

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